dog bad breath

Key takeaway

Halitosis in dogs can be caused by a number of issues, including plaque, decomposing food stuck in periodontal pockets, oral tumors, Periodontal Disease, and diabetes, among other causes. Treatment typically involves dental cleaning, preventive dental care, and medication for underlying causes. 

It’s not unusual for dogs to produce less-than-pleasant odors, whether those odors are due to a lack of bathing or something in your dog’s mouth. Halitosis in dogs is a condition that’s characterized by chronic bad breath, which your dog may have for lots of different reasons. Fortunately, halitosis can often be fixed by improving dental hygiene or treating the underlying cause.

Sometimes halitosis in dogs is a result of a lack of brushing and other oral care. Just like humans, dogs need to have their teeth, gums, and the rest of their mouths cleaned on a regular basis to prevent odor and bacteria. However, canine halitosis can also be caused by medical conditions.

The good news is, you don’t typically have a lot to worry about when it comes to halitosis in dogs. While your dog’s breath may be off putting, some basic dental hygiene could solve your problem. If your dog is suffering from halitosis that doesn’t get better with brushing and dental cleanings, you may want to consider visiting a vet.

From spotting dog ear infection symptoms to dealing with halitosis, you’ve got a lot of responsibilities as a dog owner. Here’s what you need to know about halitosis in dogs, what causes it, and how you can treat it.

What Causes Halitosis in Dogs?

The best way to prevent halitosis in dogs is to understand what causes it in the first place. As a dog owner, preventative care is an important part of making sure your dog stays healthy, and that includes oral hygiene. Poor oral hygiene is one of the biggest causes of halitosis in dogs. Ideally, you should brush your dog’s teeth at least once if not twice each day. However, dog anxiety and other conditions can make this difficult. Even brushing your dog’s teeth a few times a week can make a serious difference when it comes to halitosis.

Here are some of the most common causes of halitosis in dogs:

  • Plaque and tartar: Plaque and tartar are both the result of a buildup that occurs when you don’t brush your dog’s teeth often enough. Plaque is the first consequence of a lack of brushing, but that plaque will eventually turn to tartar with poor dental care.
  • Decomposing food stuck in periodontal pockets: Periodontal pockets are small gaps between your dog’s gums and teeth, which may be caused by gum disease. When food gets stuck in these pockets and begins to decay, it can lead to a bad case of halitosis. If your dog has gum disease, it’s important to talk to a vet about treating it.
  • Tissue necrosis from oral tumors: Oral tumors may not initially cause halitosis in dogs, but tissue necrosis from those oral tumors can lead to halitosis. If your dog has oral tumors, they may need surgery to have them removed.
  • Periodontal disease: It should come as no surprise that periodontal diseases are one of the most common causes of bad breath in dogs. Diseases that affect your dog’s gums and teeth can lead to foul odors and should be treated by a professional.
  • Diabetes: Altered blood sugar levels in dogs with diabetes may make the mouth a breeding ground for bacteria. Bacteria loves sugar, so your dog’s halitosis could be a sign of serious disease if you keep up with a good oral hygiene routine. 
  • Kidney disease: The kidneys are responsible for filtering toxins out of the body, so kidney disease is one of the potential causes of halitosis in dogs.
  • Liver disease: Like the kidneys, the liver also acts as a filter for your dog’s body. Halitosis that’s caused by liver disease may be particularly foul, and often presents with other liver disease symptoms. You may notice vomiting, jaundice, and a lack of appetite in dogs with liver disease.
  • Ingestion of garbage or feces: Sometimes dogs like to eat garbage and other gross stuff, and that can lead to halitosis as well. Eating garbage may be more common in anxious dog breeds. If your dog has separation anxiety or you notice your dog itching or exhibiting symptoms of anxiety, your vet can help you treat that anxiety.
  • Licking their anal glands: Your dog may lick their anal glands to express them, especially if there’s an abscess or infection that’s causing pain. Unfortunately, this can cause your dog’s breath to take on the scent of their anal glands, which isn’t ideal.

While halitosis in dogs is often a result of something minor such as a lack of brushing, it can also signify serious disease. Halitosis caused by kidney disease and liver disease may cause more severe bad breath in dogs, as well as other symptoms that may give you a clue about what’s causing your dog’s halitosis. If you’re not sure why your dog has halitosis and brushing doesn’t help, see a vet.

closeup of dog’s mouth and muzzle

How to Treat Your Dog’s Halitosis

You might be wondering, why does my dog have diarrhea and halitosis? When it comes to treating halitosis in dogs, the first thing you need to do is visit a vet to determine the cause. Halitosis can be a result of something very simple, such as poor dental hygiene, or it can be a sign of a serious medical issue that only a vet can treat. First things first, take your dog to the vet if you’re dealing with a case of canine halitosis.

The most common treatment for halitosis in dogs is a simple dental cleaning. Halitosis that’s caused by a buildup of plaque and tartar can often be remedied with a thorough cleaning. In some cases, dental surgery may be required to remove oral tumors or other causes of halitosis.

You can help get rid of canine halitosis by limiting your dog’s access to feces, roadkill, and trash. If your dog has a tendency to get into the garbage or eat feces from the yard, you need to keep them away from these areas to prevent halitosis.

Sometimes halitosis in dogs is caused by an infection or disease. If that’s the case, you’ll need to talk to your vet about getting a prescription to treat that medication or disease. Liver disease may be treated with antibiotics, IV fluids, and other medications. Diabetes is typically treated with insulin, like it is in humans. It’s important to talk to your vet before giving your dog any medication and follow instructions when you administer medication.

Preventative care is an essential part of making sure your dog doesn’t suffer from halitosis, so you need to make sure you’re doing your part at home and taking your dog to the vet for dental cleanings. A yearly dental cleaning helps remove built-up plaque and tartar that can lead to halitosis in dogs, plus it helps prevent periodontal disease. 

At home, you should try to brush your dog’s teeth at least a few times a week with dog toothpaste. Toothpaste that’s made for humans can cause harm to dogs, so talk to your vet about choosing the right dog-friendly toothpaste. Regular dental care can also help your dog produce more saliva, which can flush out bacteria that lead to bad breath.

boxer dog with tongue out

Halitosis in Dogs: Frequently Asked Questions

What can you give a dog for halitosis?

If your dog is suffering from halitosis, the first thing you should do is work on dental hygiene. You should brush your dog’s teeth at least once each day, and your dog should receive a professional dental cleaning at least once a year. This is the simplest way to make sure your dog has fresh breath.

In some cases, halitosis in dogs is caused by an infection or medical condition. If that’s the case, it’s important to treat the root cause of halitosis rather than simply brushing your dog’s teeth. If regular brushing isn’t helping with halitosis, you should take your dog to the vet for a check-up.

How do I know if my dog has halitosis?

While it’s normal for dogs to have halitosis, their breath shouldn’t be so bad that you can’t stand it. If you notice a strong, foul odor coming from your dog’s mouth when they’re simply panting near you or yawning, that’s a sign of canine halitosis. The specific odor your dog emits may tell you more about the cause of their halitosis.

If you don’t own a toothbrush for your dog, chances are your dog has halitosis. Dogs need their teeth brushed regularly just like humans, and a lack of brushing will eventually contribute to halitosis, periodontal disease, and more. If you don’t know how to brush your dog’s teeth, talk to your vet to get some tips and learn about choosing the right toothpaste and toothbrush for your dog.

When should I take my dog to the vet for halitosis?

Halitosis in dogs isn’t necessarily a cause for immediate concern. Dogs eat a very different diet from humans, so it’s not unusual for dog breath to be less pleasant to a human nose. While a dog-food smell or general dog breath isn’t a cause for concern, you should be worried about halitosis if you can smell when your dog simply has their mouth open.

If you can smell a foul odor when your dog yawns, chews on a toy, or lies next to you on the couch, you’re probably dealing with canine halitosis. You should start by brushing your dog’s teeth and taking them in for a dental cleaning. If that doesn’t help, talk to your vet about other potential causes of halitosis in dogs.

Final Notes

Dogs aren’t necessarily known for their hygiene, but that doesn’t mean you should be able to smell your dog from across the room. Unfortunately, halitosis in dogs is fairly common because dogs tend to eat unsavory things, and many dog owners don’t brush their dog’s teeth often enough. If your dog has halitosis that won’t go away with frequent brushing and professional dental cleanings, talk to your vet about ruling out more serious underlying causes.

From dental hygiene to learning how to train a dog to stop barking, you need a good veterinarian on your side. At Dutch, we make it easy for you to find a qualified vet by connecting you with professionals who can prescribe treatments and offer advice. You can even have prescriptions sent directly to your door. If you want to learn more about preventing halitosis in dogs, contact Dutch to find a vet today.

References

  1. Halitosis in Dogs and the Effect of Periodontal Therapy, The Journal of Nutrition, https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/128/12/2715S/4724404

  2. Bad Breath in Dogs and Cats, Jan Bellows, DVM, DAVDC, https://www.vin.com/apputil/project/defaultadv1.aspx?pId=17256&SAId=1&catId=93555&id=4951287&ind=610&objTypeID=1007

  3. Dog Owners' Perspectives on Canine Dental Health—A Questionnaire Study in Sweden, Frontiers in Veterinary Science, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2020.00298/full

  4. Disorders of the Mouth in Dogs, Merck Veterinary Manual, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/digestive-disorders-of-dogs/disorders-of-the-mouth-in-dogs